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Chapter Fifteen.
The emigrant ship and our kind captain—Get on board a homeward-bound ship—An unexpected encounter—My old captain—A converted man—A crippled ship—Land at Bermuda—Once more sail for England—Pressed again.

The good ship Nieuwland made rapid progress. Though I was flying away from home and all I longed to be with, yet anything was better than moving slowly. If we did not fall in with any ship in which I might return, I felt that the sooner I got to the end of the voyage, the sooner I might be starting back again. The gale continued for several days; the wind at length dropped and then came ahead, blowing stronger than ever. It was now necessary to heave the ship to.

In performing the operation, a heavy sea struck her bows, and two more of the crew were washed overboard. Happily the emigrants were below, or many would probably have shared the same fate.

I had now what I much required, abundance of work as a seaman. When it is well for a person to fly from his own thoughts, there is nothing like useful occupation to help him along; nothing is so bad as to allow oneself to dwell on one’s misfortunes. The best advice I can give to a man when he is unhappy, is to go and help others. He will find plenty of people requiring his aid, and numbers far more unhappy than himself.

The ship had suffered a good deal during the gale, and we began to be apprehensive for her safety should the weather continue bad; but it soon cleared up, and we had every hopes of reaching our port in a week or ten days at the farthest. The day after the fair weather set in, a sail was reported ahead. As we drew near each other, we saw that she was in a very shattered condition. She was a brig, we perceived, but only one mast was standing. Her bowsprit was carried away, and her foremast was gone by the board.

Our captain made a signal to ask what assistance was required. The answer was, “Some spars for our foremast and bowsprit, and some hands who may be willing to return to England to help navigate the ship. We have lost five overboard.”

Our kind captain called us all aft. “Here is an opportunity for those who may desire it to return home,” said he. “The brig is in no very good plight, as you see; but many a vessel in a worse condition has made a safe voyage. I will not advise you either way. I shall be very sorry to lose you, but you are at liberty to go.”

We thanked him very much for this additional proof of his love of justice and fair dealing, and La Motte and I consulted together what we would do. I at all events was ready to run every risk for the sake of returning home. I also felt that we might be the means of saving the brig and the people on board her.

La Motte agreed to accompany me; so we told the captain that we would go. Andrews and another man said that they would accompany us. Our captain therefore signalled that he would afford all the help asked for, and told the people in the brig in the meantime to send a boat on board us. As we passed under the counter of the brig, previous to heaving to, a man standing on her taffrail hailed us through his speaking-trumpet:

“We cannot do what you ask; we have not a boat that can swim, and we have only four hands remaining on board.”

It struck me as I looked at the man that I knew his figure, and even the tone of his voice; but where I had seen him I could not tell. While the ship was being hove-to, we went round to bid farewell to the numerous friends we had found on board. Had we been brothers, we could not have been treated more kindly, and to no one was our gratitude more due than to the honest Bremen captain.

The boat was ready; we stepped into her, with a couple of spars towing astern. The captain took his seat in the stern-sheets.

“I’ll go on board and see my brother skipper,” said he. “Now, my sons, farewell. I shall not forget you, and you will not forget me, I hope. We may never meet together again in this world, or we may; but I hope that we shall all be steering the same course to that world which will last for ever and ever. Don’t ever forget that world, my sons. Whatever you do, wherever you go, always keep it in view. It is of more value than gold or much fine gold. Get, I say, on that course, and do not let any one ever tempt you to alter it. In fair weather or foul, steadily steer for it, and you will be sure to make it at last.”

We all listened attentively to the good man’s words; he spoke with so much earnestness, and had given us so strong a proof of his practical Christianity, that we could not but feel that they merited our respect. The captain of the brig—the same man who had hailed us with the speaking-trumpet—stood at the gangway to receive us when we pulled alongside.

I rubbed my eyes as I looked at him. I rubbed and rubbed again.

There stood, scarcely altered, it appeared to me, a man I had believed long since swallowed up by the hungry waves, Captain Tooke, once the master of the Fate, the brig in which I had been wrecked off the Scilly Islands. If it was not him,—saved by some wonderful means,—I felt sure that it was a brother or near relative; for if he was not my old captain, no two people could be more alike. The sea had gone down completely, so that we without difficulty boarded the brig. Her master thanked the Bremen captain very warmly for the assistance he had brought him, and welcomed us.

“You are brave lad? for coming on board such a wreck of a craft as mine is,” said he, looking at us, and putting out his hand to La Motte. “However, if we are mercifully favoured by fine weather, we will get her all ataunto before long.”

We told him that if the ship was sound in hull, we had no fears about the matter; we should soon get her to rights.

“That’s the spirit I liked to see,” he answered, and then turning to the Bremen captain, he continued, “Tell me, my friend, how much am I to pay you for these spars? Ask your own price. They are invaluable to me.”

“Nothing,” was the answer. “I had several to spare, and none have been lost during the voyage. Well, if you press the point, you may pay the value over to these men when you reach your own country. They have lost their all from being taken prisoners, and will require something to take them to their homes.”

“That I will, with all my heart,” answered the captain of the brig.

While he was speaking, I kept looking at him. Though his features were the same, his way of expressing himself was so different to that of Captain Tooke, that I felt I must be mistaken.

Farewells were said between the two captains, and once more the Bremen captain shook hands with us all round. The emigrants cheered as the ship bore up round us, and away she went to the west, while we lay as near the wind as our dismasted state would allow us.

I was anxious to settle the question as to the identity of the captain, so I asked one of the men what his name was. He somewhat startled me by answering “Tooke.” He, however, could tell me nothing about his past history; so I went up to the captain himself, and asked him if he had not been on board the Fate when she was wrecked?

“Yes,” he replied; “I was the sole survivor of all on board that unfortunate craft.”

“No, sir, you were not,” I answered, and I told him how a number of us had got away in the boat, and how all, with the exception of old Cole, Iffley, and I, had been lost, and how the old mate had died, and we were the only ones left. He told me that when the mast went overboard, he had clung to it, and that the tide had carried it out into mid-channel. When morning broke, he found himself close to a vessel hove-to. The wind then began to fall, and the sea to go down, and in a short time they sent a boat and picked him up. He by that time was very much exhausted, and could scarcely have held out another quarter of an hour.

He himself had been all his life utterly careless about religion; but while he was hanging on to the mast amid the raging ocean, he had been led to think of the future, towards which he felt that he was probably hastening, and he could not help discerning the finger of God in thus bringing him directly up to the only vessel within many miles of him. When he got on board, however, he was struck by the utter want of respect shown by the master and all the crew for anything like religion. He and they were scoffers and blasphemers and professed infidels. He said that he was so horrified and shocked at all he heard, that he trembled lest he might have become like them.

From that time forward he prayed that he might be enlightened and reformed, and he felt truly a new heart put into him. He had never since gone back. He had met with many misfortunes and hardships. He had been frequently shipwrecked; had lost all his property; had been taken prisoner by the enemy; had been compelled to serve as mate instead of master; and had scarcely ever been able to visit his family on shore. Still he went on, trusting in God’s mercy, and feeling sure that whatever happened to him was for the best.

“And, sir,” said I, when he had finished his account of himself, “I heartily agree with you. I have often fainted and often doubted, but I have always come back to the same opinion, that what is, is best—that is, that whatever God does is best for us.”

This conversation, by the bye, did not take place at once. We first set to work to get the ship to rights. We got sheers up, and, the weather being calm, we without difficulty got the new mast stepped, and another bowsprit rigged. The mast was only a jury-mast, but we set it up well with stays, and it carried sail fairly.

While we were working away, I observed the countenance of one of the men who was doing duty as mate, he being the most experienced of the three survivors of the crew.

“I am certain that you must be an old shipmate of mine,” said I as we were hauling away together. “Is not your name Flood, and were you not on board the Kite schooner when we were attacked by pirates?”

“The very same, lad,” said he. “And you—I remember you, too, very well now—you are Will Weatherhelm.”

“The same; and is it not extraordinary that thus, in the middle of the Atlantic, I should meet with two men whom I have not heard of for years, and one of whom I thought was dead?”

“Not more extraordinary than that those two men should have become thoroughly changed characters,” he answered. “I was a careless reprobate, Weatherhelm, when you knew me, and now I have learned to think and to pray, and to strive to do well.”

It certainly was surprising to me to hear John Flood speak as he did, for, unhappily, in those days there were not many seamen who could say the same for themselves. But, poor fellows, their opportunities were few of hearing anything about religion, and I believe men will be judged according to the advantages they may have possessed. Let those take heed, therefore, who have them, that they do not throw them away.

Flood gave me an account of the way the brig—the Fair Rosamond was her name—met with her accident. It was indeed providential that she and all on board had not perished. She had sailed from Port Royal, in Jamaica, bound for Liverpool, with several other vessels, under convoy of a frigate. The first part of the voyage was favourable, but the Fair Rosamond was very deeply laden with sugar and rum and other West India produce, and being then out of trim, she proved herself a very dull sailer.

To avoid the risk of capture, the convoy had steered a more northerly course than is usual, and had not kept east till nearly in the latitude of Newfoundland.

“We were constantly lagging behind, and the frigate had to come and whip us up so often that we completely lost our character in the fleet,” continued Flood. “We did our best to keep up with the rest of the convoy, by setting every stitch of canvas we could carry; but nothing would do, and we should have had to heave part of the cargo overboard to have enabled her to keep up with the rest. At length we were overtaken by a gale of wind, and we had to heave-to. We thought that the rest of the fleet were doing the same near us. It was night. When morning broke not a sail was to be seen. We were more likely to fall into the hands of the enemy, but still we could take our own time, and we thought that we were less likely to meet with an accident than when, blow high or low, we had to press her with canvas. However, we were mistaken. We had been driven a long way to the nor’ard of the Gulf Stream, and the weather was cold and bad, when one night, just as I had come on deck to keep the middle watch, and had gone to the wheel, I looked up and thought I saw a great white glittering cloud right ahead of us. I sang out, and the first mate, who was officer of the watch, crying, ‘Hard a-lee!’ ran forward. I put down the helm, but scarcely had I done so before I saw what I knew to be a huge iceberg rising up directly ahead of us. I fully believed that our last moments were come. It appeared to me as if the ship was running into a cavern in the side of some vast mountain of marble. I held my breath. If my hair ever stood on end, I believe that it did on that occasion. My eyeballs seemed starting from their sockets. I felt the blood leave my cheeks and rush round my heart, as if it would burst. A terrific crash came. There were despairing shrieks and cries. I thought the brig was lost. The bowsprit was carried away; the foremast came toppling down, and at the same time a sea struck the ship, and swept over the decks. I held on by the wheel. The captain rushed on deck just as the sea had passed over us. I felt the brig rebound as it were from the iceberg, and I found that we were drifting away from it. The two men who were below came on deck at the same time the captain did. We shouted to our companions. We looked about aboard and around us, on either side where the wreck of the foremast was still hanging on to the channels, but no voice replied—not a glimpse of them could be seen. We four were left alone on that stormy ice-surrounded sea, with a shattered, almost unmanageable ship. We did not fear. Our captain was a host in himself. We could not get the wreck of the mast on board, so we had to cut it away. Happily the wind came round from the nor’ard, and by rigging a stay from the head of the mainmast to the stump of the bowsprit, we were able to set a sail and to get the brig’s head round. We had been knocking about ten days when you fell in with us. Two vessels passed us, and must have seen our condition, but they did not alter their course. All who sail the ocean are not good Samaritans, like your friend the Bremen captain.”

Such was the brief account Flood gave me of their disaster. I have always designated the good man of whom he spoke as the Bremen captain, for I could not pronounce his name, and did not write it down. I hope we shall meet in heaven.

I must hurry on with my adventures. Once more I indulged in the hope of being speedily restored to my wife and home. The weather was fine, and, considering her crippled state, the brig made fair way. In some respects we were better off than on board the Bremen ship, for we had ample and good provisions and plenty of room, and as our supply of clothes was small, Captain Tooke distributed among us those belonging to the poor fellows who had been lost.

I had one night turned in, after keeping the first watch, under the belief that all was going well. I was roused up with the so often heard cry, “All hands shorten sail!” I hurried on deck to find the brig plunging into a heavy sea, which was straining every timber in her. A fierce north-easter was blowing. To attempt to face it was impossible, and it was not without difficulty that we got the brig’s head round from it. Away we went before the wind, and away from England and my home. By the captain’s computation we were only three hundred miles or so to the northward of the Bermudas. The brig had for some time been in a leaky state, and we had frequently to turn to at the pumps, but, with fine weather, we had had no fear of keeping her clear. Now, however, the case was altered, and Captain Tooke resolved to run for the Bermudas.

It is no easy matter to hit a small spot in the middle of the ocean, after dark and blowing weather, when no observation has lately been taken. We had to keep a bright look-out not to miss the islands. I felt especially anxious about the matter. Should we run past them, we might, after all, be compelled to put into an American port to repair the ship, and my return home might be still further postponed.

The morning came; the day wore on. No land was in sight. My heart sank within me. Over and over again I went to the main-topmast-head to look out for the group of rocks I so anxiously desired to see.

At length, just on the starboard bow, I caught sight of a blue mound rising out of the water. I hurried below to tell the captain. In a couple of hours we were safely at anchor within Saint George’s harbour.

I was in hopes that the brig would be quickly repaired, and that we should be allowed to proceed on our voyage. However, as it turned out, an agent of the owner’s resided there. He ordered the brig to be surveyed. The surveyor was connected with the chief shipbuilder of the place. He pronounced her unfit to proceed on her voyage without a thorough repair. The cargo was consequently discharged, and the crew were paid off. Captain Tooke regretted this exceedingly, but could not help it. He said that he should have been perfectly ready to take the brig home, with a new mast and a little caulking in her upper works, which could be got at simply by heeling her over. However, he had to submit.

He not only paid us our wages, but the wages which were due to the poor fellows who were lost, and also the value of the spars which had been given to him by the Bremen captain. Thus I found myself possessed of more money than I had had in my pocket since I had been pressed. The question was now, how I could most speedily reach England. I took counsel with La Motte. He observed, that the longest way round is often the shortest way there; and that, perhaps, by going to some port in the United States, we might more quickly get to Europe, as there was no vessel in harbour bound there at that time.

Just as we had arrived at this determination, a homeward-bound West Indiaman, which had parted from her convoy, put into the harbour. She had lost several men by yellow fever, and her captain, who came on shore, was very glad to ship us the moment we offered. He took all the men who had been paid off from the Fair Rosamond.

Once more we were under weigh for Old England. The Jane was a fine ship, belonging to London. She was in good repair, and well found, and with the fresh hands taken on board, well manned. We had no reason to dread gales of wind or disasters of any sort. The wind came fair, and we had a fine run till we were not far off the chops of the Channel, when it fell a dead calm. There we lay for a couple of days, well-nigh rolling our masts out, when a light breeze sprung up from the eastward. Though it was against us, anything was better than a calm. Oh, how I longed to be at home! Again almost in sight of England, I could not help every moment conjuring up pictures of the scenes that home might present. Sometimes they were bright and happy, but then they would become so sad and painful that I grew sick at heart by their contemplation. “At all events,” I said to myself, “all my doubts will soon be at an end. I shall know what has occurred.”

Such thoughts were passing through my mind, when the look-out from the masthead reported several sail in sight, coming down before the wind. The report caused considerable excitement on board. They might be friends, but they might be enemies; and if so, there was too great a probability of our finding ourselves entering a French port as prisoners, instead of returning home as we had expected. Our captain resolved to stand on close-hauled, till he could ascertain whether they looked suspicious, and if so, to keep away to the northward. As they drew nearer, we did not doubt from the breadth of canvas they showed that they were men-of-war. In a short time we got near enough to them to exchange signals, when we made out that they were British ships. The headmost one, a frigate, signalled to us to heave-to, an order our captain very unwillingly obeyed.

“Perhaps she only wants to send some message home, but I doubt it. Lads, look out for yourselves,” said he.

I knew too well to what his remark referred. We, as ordered, hove to, and a lieutenant and midshipman with a boat’s crew strongly armed came aboard us.

“Turn the hands up, captain,” said the lieutenant briskly. The order was obeyed, and we all had to appear on deck. “You are strongly manned, captain,” observed the officer, running his eye over us. “You can easily manage to get into port with half the number of hands you now have.”

“Could not work my ship without all the hands I have,” answered the captain gruffly.

“There is nothing like trying,” observed the lieutenant. “Let me see your papers. Ah, I observe you entered some of these men when part of your voyage was accomplished. You can do very well without them, at all events. They none of them have protection. No, I see that clearly. Come, lads, get your bags up; I can take no excuses. Our ships must have men; I know nothing more about the matter. Be smart now.”

I endeavoured in vain to expostulate. I entreated the officer to allow me to proceed in the ship. He replied that it was his duty to take me. He could not stop to argue about duty. I must go. I knew that he was right; but, oh, how grievous was this new trial to bear! I thought that I should have been beside myself.

La Motte was doing duty as mate of the ship, and he escaped. All I could do was to tell him where to find my wife, and to entreat him to lose no time in visiting her, and in assuring her of my safety. He promised faithfully to fulfil my wishes, and with a heavy, almost breaking heart, I stepped into the man-of-war’s boat.

I felt inclined to curse the country which could allow of such a system. Happily, I did not. I knew that it arose from the ignorance of those in authority as to how to get seamen for the king’s ships, and not from cruelty or heartlessness. It may seem surprising to those who live in happier times that no better plan could be thought of.

I found myself conveyed on board the Nymph, a thirty-six twelve-pounder gun frigate, commanded by Captain Edward Pellew. When questioned, I did not deny that I had before served on board a man-of-war, and having given an account of my adventures, I was rated at once as an able seaman. I went about my duty, and did it to the best of my power, but it was mechanically, without any spirit or heartiness.

Month after month passed away. I felt as if I was in a trance. I could not think. I tried to forge, the past; I dared not meditate on the future. How I lived through that time I scarcely know. I never laughed or smiled, I scarcely spoke to any one; even the active duties of the ship did not arouse me.


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